Amazing Rocket City Moms: The Roller Derby Coach

Welcome to our series where we explore amazing local moms and their impact on our community. We’ll hear about their journeys, inspiration, advice, and snag a few gems off their playlists! Thank you to Advanced OBGYN for sponsoring Amazing Rocket City Moms.

Meet Melissa Shepherd, Huntsville native and married mom of three, part of Redstone Arsenal worker bees by day, Roller Derby Coach by night. Well, not exactly by night…

Her Passion

Roller Derby. This former Dixie Derby Girl found her calling in 2010, after joining the team (by way of being dragged to a boot camp – so yes, real women can do this). Melissa says that it’s an insanely addictive sport, hard to learn, hard to play, hard to coach, but amazing to watch. It’s also supportive and a close-knit sports community, which is great if you take a tumble – either physically or in daily life.

Amazing Moms roller derby Collage

But how did she go from being a Padawan to teaching Jedis? It’s all due to her 13 year-old daughter, Ruby Jane, and her instant LOVE of Roller Derby. Ruby visualized herself as a Derby Girl from the first moment she saw skaters hit the track.

Sometimes timing is everything. At the same time Ruby’s interest piqued, a couple of awesome parents were starting a co-ed junior team called the Rocket City Rebels, and both Ruby and Melissa made the transition. Five years later, there’s been no looking back…


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Finding Balance

I asked Melissa about how she achieves balance in her life and her answer was pretty incredible.

“First of all, I want to explode the myth of BALANCE, that it is a thing you can achieve for more than a few moments at a time. At any point in your life, some aspect of it takes more time than something else you want or need to do. There is never enough money or energy to make everything perfect, but choosing to plan ahead and to execute preliminaries weeks and months in advance is a big help. Your train can derail even then, but I believe in both my family and my derby family.”

roller derby rocket city rebels
Ruby Jane today skating for the Rocket City Rebels.

So if you ever thought that you were the only one who couldn’t achieve this “holy grail”.of complete work/life balance, you are not alone.

Her Biggest Challenge

“The biggest challenge with coaching is in getting shy potential athletes to stay until they see their own potential. You never overcome it, you just keep supporting skater after skater until something marvelous happens and they understand, or they walk away.”


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Her Perfect Saturday

“Nothing needs to be done, no pressing deadlines. No derby, no work, no chores and the house is clean. The yard is immaculate and the whole family sits outdoors in our hammocks and read. We go to Lowe Mill and eat delicious Earl Grey chocolate and lavender marshmallows at Pizzelle’s, then to the Land Trust and have a perfect hike. Afterwards, meet some friends at the Aldridge Creek Greenway to skate for a few miles before dark, ending with sitting by the pool under the stars and just “be” in the moment”.

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#1 Parenting Tip

“Listen to what your children are saying. Don’t immediately offer advice unless that is really what they are asking you. Often people need to talk through things out loud to arrive at a decision or plan, and kids are no different. By the way, not offering advice is really hard to do.”


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Favorite thing to do in the Rocket City

“Just one thing? Skating. Indoors, outdoors at a Greenway – cycling is a close second.”

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Name the song you think of when you need to…

Because you can always learn a lot from a person based on their personal music score!

  • Get your gameface on: “Psychotic Reaction” – The Count Five
  • Recover from heartbreak: “Heroes” – David Bowie
  • Energize yourself: “All this and Heaven Too” – Florence and the Machine
  • Let loose and have fun: “Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)” – Etta James
Do you have a local mom in mind as an Amazing Rocket City Mom? We want to hear from you – send us your ideas and we’ll get in touch!

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